Bexley Magistrates’ Court has ordered father of three, Olufemi Olusegun Shotunde, of Martin Street, Thamesmead, to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and to pay the London Borough of Bexley a total of £1,000 compensation after making a fraudulent claim for housing assistance - writes bexley.gov.uk.
After the sentencing hearing on 24 August 2017, Cabinet Member for Adults' Services, Cllr Brad Smith, welcomed the punishment, saying: “Housing fraud is a serious offence. It not only puts a strain on public finances, but it deprives genuine housing applicants from using that accommodation. I hope the message is clear that where fraud of Council services is found, the Council will prosecute.”
Shotunde (33) had previously appeared at Bexley Magistrates’ Court, on 21 August 2017, to plead guilty to a charge that he had dishonestly made a false representation during an interview at Civic Offices, Bexleyheath, on 24 November 2015, in which he claimed that he was entitled to accommodation or assistance because he had accrued rent arrears due to paying his mother’s medical bills at a clinic in Nigeria.
Investigations by the Council’s housing service found that Shotunde had been evicted due to non-payment of rent amounting to £2,849.44 but failed to locate the clinic in Nigeria, said to have treated the defendant’s mother. As a result, the matter was referred to the Council’s fraud team.
Shotunde’s mother was traced and interviewed. She confirmed that she had not received treatment in Nigeria and had not had medical bills paid by Shotunde. She also stated that she had received treatment for cancer, but that this was in the UK and she had not been to Nigeria since 2014.
The Council’s duties include providing temporary accommodation to those who are thought to be entitled to it, while investigations are carried out to substantiate claims. The total cost to the Council in housing Shotunde and his family was estimated to be in the region of £7,000.
In mitigation, at the sentencing hearing, the court heard that Shotunde, who currently works as a security guard, had been in dire financial straits at the time of the offence when his pregnant partner had lost her job. Magistrates heard that he had served 7 years in the army, does voluntary work and was remorseful and ashamed of the blemish on his previous good character.
The Council’s prosecuting solicitor argued that such offences were a drain on the public purse and deprived the local authority of resources which could have helped genuinely homeless housing applicants. It was further pointed out that a blatant lie had been told in claiming that paying medical bills had caused a shortage of money.
Shotunde was given a 12 month community order incorporating 200 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to the Council at £50 per month.
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